Sugar House Prison (Utah)
The state penitentiary in 1903
|Population||575 (as of March 12, 1951)|
|Closed||March 12, 1951|
|Managed by||U.S. Marshals (1871-1896)
Utah Board of Corrections (1896-1951)
Sugar House Prison, previously the Utah Territorial Penitentiary, was a prison in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. The 180-acre (73 ha) prison housed more than 400 inmates. It was closed in 1951 due to encroaching housing development, and all of its inmates were moved to the new Utah State Prison in Draper. The site is now occupied by Sugar House Park and Highland High School.
Plans for a penitentiary to serve the newly established Utah Territory were drawn up in March 1853. In the following October, territorial governor Brigham Young selected the 10-acre (4.0 ha) government-owned site, then known as "The Big Field Survey", about six miles from central Salt Lake City. Sixteen "cozy cells dug into the ground, with iron bars on top" comprised the original prison at a cost of $32,000. The facility that became known as the Utah Territorial Penitentiary was opened in January 1855. In 1867, the Utah Territorial Legislature determined that the prison was inadequate and once considered moving it onto an island in the Great Salt Lake. From 1871 to 1896, the penitentiary was federally operated by U.S. Marshals. The inmate capacity was expanded in 1885 to accommodate 200 individuals with the construction of a new cell house and prison walls.
After becoming a state in 1896, Utah assumed operation of the penitentiary, also called the "state pen", from the federal government. Starting in 1900, executions by the state were carried out in the prison. Prior to that, death penalties were administered in the counties where the crimes had been committed. Tickets were distributed in 1903 for admission to publicly view an execution by firing squad.
With the continuing growth of Salt Lake City, the local residents eventually wanted the prison population relocated away from the neighborhood of Sugar House. In 1937, plans were approved for a new prison, 22 miles south of the city in Draper. By 1941, work began on the 1009-acre (408 ha) site, then called "Point of the Mountain", to replace the aging penitentiary. However, construction of the new facility was delayed because of shortages stemming from World War II. On March 12, 1951, the 575 inmates at the old prison were transferred by bus to the newly completed Utah State Prison. After nine sticks of dynamite had little effect on the heavy walls of the shuttered penitentiary, the demolition of many sections had to be carried out stone by stone.
Following the razing of the old prison, proposals to repurpose the land included an amusement park, campground, golf course, and shopping center. The former site eventually became Sugar House Park while 30 acres (12 ha) were set aside for the future campus of Highland High School.
- George Q. Cannon, early Mormon leader who was given a six-month sentence in September 1888 for "unlawful cohabitation" under the Edmunds Act.
- John Deering, convicted murderer who was executed by firing squad in 1938 while hooked up to an electrocardiogram.
- Joe Hill, convicted of murdering storekeeper John A. Morrison on circumstantial evidence; executed in 1915 at the prison despite attempts at intervention by President Woodrow Wilson.
- Muñoz, Olga (2 Aug 2007). "Life behind bars intrigues young hearts". The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City). Retrieved 6 May 2013.
- Arave, Lynn (14 Jul 2006). "Prison once stood where park now is". Deseret News (Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media). pp. 1–2. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
- Schindler, Hal (28 Jan 1996). "Taylor's Death Was Quick . . . But Some Weren't So Lucky". The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City). p. A1. Retrieved 6 May 2013. (reposted by Utah.gov)
- Reavy, Pat (16 Jul 2010). "Utah has interesting history of executions Gardner will be only the third inmate to die by firing squad since 1976". Deseret News (Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media). pp. 1–3. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
- Arave, Lynn (14 Jul 2006). "Prison once stood where park now is". Deseret News (Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media). p. 3. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
- Cannon, Joseph A.; Fish, Rick (1994), "Cannon, George Q.", in Powell, Allan Kent, Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0874804256, OCLC 30473917
- Smith, Gibbs M. (1994). Powell, Allan Kent, ed. "Utah History Encyclopedia". Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press. ISBN 0874804256. OCLC 30473917.
- Sugar House Park (official site)
- Sugar House in the early 1900s (photos)
- State Prison: Agency History at the Utah State Archives and Records Service
- Utah Territorial Prison, Sugar House 1855-1951 at UtahRails.net